Collective farms have failed

23 January 2014

IT has become somewhat trite to point out that our Government has launched many noble initiatives but invariable fails to implement them effectively. However, how can one avoid constantly pointing this out when Government seems to make the same mistakes over and over again and year after year?

In theory, the idea behind the Green Schemes in various parts of the country is a laudable and well-meant initiative to promote agricultural production and ensure food security.

In practice, major miscalculations and mismanagement have plagued the Green Schemes since their inception, sometimes resulting in disastrous outcomes.

The latest example occurred at the Uvhungu-Vhungu Green Scheme outside Rundu – the administrative centre of the Kavango East region.

It has now emerged that large quantities pumpkins and butternuts harvested at the scheme lie rotting because the project lacks the necessary cool rooms to preserve the produce.

Furthermore, production from the six other Green Schemes in the two Kavango regions has apparently saturated the market for pumpkins and butternuts.

Trying to understand how this situation could have arisen leaves one flabbergasted, and one can come to no other conclusion than that there is monumental incompetence in the management of the Green Schemes.

The most elementary principle is that before embarking on any project you need to carry out a proper feasibility study that includes a market analysis, a marketing plan, an operations and a financial plan.

In addition, it is common practice to carry out a SWOT analysis to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of any project or business undertaking.

In many cases – if not most – our Government seems to launch projects first and carry out the feasibility study as an afterthought, which is a completely back to front way of doing things. Did no one have the foresight to foresee that without proper cool rooms, produce from Uvhungu-Vhungu would spoil?

Could no one have predicted that with six Green Schemes producing the same crops, it could create oversupply on the market?

The ideological underpinnings of the Green Schemes also remain highly questionable.

They smack of Stalinist-style collective farms and a misconceived collectivisation drive. We all know how disastrously that experiment in social engineering ended.

It failed because it inherently contradicts human nature and it has become synonymous with unbelievable mismanagement and inefficiency. People will not do their outmost to ensure the success of any endeavour unless they derive direct personal benefit from it, or own it. We have seen this time and again with the communist-inspired mentality behind the Green Schemes and the Ministry of Fisheries and Resources’ aquaculture projects.

People have even gone as far poisoning the ponds of communally owned aquaculture projects. Why should they care? After all, they do not belong to them!

Because of their relatively higher rainfall, the two Kavango regions have a huge potential to become the breadbaskets of Namibia and major drivers of economic growth.

With efficient agricultural practises, we could potentially produce enough food to make the country self-sufficient in food and at the same time create a significant number of jobs in agro-industries.

In addition, we could possibly grow enough grain to feedlot our own cattle instead of sending tens of thousands of cattle to South African feedlots, which again could create a large number of jobs.

Let us however be clear on one thing! The Green Schemes will never achieve this – either in our lifetimes or by the end of eternity.

We will only achieve this if we foster agricultural entrepreneurs that have the drive, determination and will to succeed that comes with deriving personal benefit from one’s own sweat and toil. Unfortunately, that is human nature and attempts to change human nature always fail. The best we can ever hope for is to modify the worst excesses of human nature, but never fundamentally change it.

We will somehow have to overcome the practical obstacle that almost all land in the two Kavango regions remains under communal ownership and the control of traditional leaders.

It is unrealistic to expect people to give up their land to open up the way for modern agriculture without receiving some compensation.

This requires some innovative thinking, whereby private agricultural companies could lease the land from communities that would then share the income from leasing out the land.



The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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